Why A Generation Z’er Chose Accounting

Blogger: Liz Wood

I still have family friends ask me about my career path with a response similar to this: “Accounting, huh?  That seems…interesting.”  It is hard for people to try and act excited about my college path, especially when they still think of my generation as the technological savvy, entrepreneurial, adventurous type.  However, I think a lot of individuals confuse Millennials with Generation Z; furthermore, there are actually a lot of Gen Z’ers that are interested in fields like accounting.  Here is a list of reasons why I, as a fellow Gen Z’er, chose accounting:

Diverse Opportunities

“Accountants are boring.”  Some of my friends continue to joke with me about this idea, but I laugh it off!  I think a lot of non-accounting majors do not understand the vast routes you can take.  For instance, by the time I graduate, I will have engaged in three internships—all of them will be based on accounting but are completely different at the same time.  My first internship was in corporate accounting for a private company in an office-like environment.  My second internship will be in internal audit with a lead producing company.  I will be able to visit multiple facilities in France, California and New York and assist with conducting audits.  Finally, my third internship will be in external audit with a Big Four firm.  This will allow me to engage with different clients and review their financial records and documents.

And it doesn’t just end there.  There are SO many other different pathways to take in an accounting career, and each one will help you develop a new skill set.  Accounting is great for the indecisive but also for those who want to work the same job until retirement.

Stability and Growth

I am personally not a huge risk-taker. In fact, I have already started a Roth IRA to save up for my retirement because I like having a cushion to fall back on.  With an accounting career (especially public accounting) I can feel safe knowing that I probably won’t be laid off any time soon.  Also, a public accounting career provides almost guaranteed promotions after a certain timeframe.  “Hmm, I wonder if I will ever get promoted to senior associate?” is not a question new auditors typically have to worry about.  It certainly takes a heavy weight off my shoulders!

Accounting is not Always Forever

But what if you end up hating accounting?  This is a question I receive a LOT, and here’s my take on it:

As I mentioned earlier, there are different routes to take, so I could always try a different accounting sector.  Even then, if I still did not enjoy my career, I am not forced to stay in accounting just because that is what my degree is in.  I know many individuals who have switched from accounting to marketing or human resources and are currently executives at a company.  Accounting provides such a strong foundation that is integral in all parts of a business and can allow you to branch out to new departments.  That’s why I personally think accounting is a strong degree to pick for undecisive business majors.

I’ll be honest, accounting is typically not the first major that comes to a student’s mind in terms of studies (it may be a last choice for some, in fact).  However, the benefits, learning experience and ability to grow, and even travel, are just a few of the factors that attract Generation Z’ers to this field.  I think accounting is a hidden gem that not many young students think about, so I consider myself lucky to have discovered it so early!

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Workplace skills every accounting student should learn in college

Blogger: V. Aishwarya Singh

Time Management and Organization

College provides an abundance of resources. Choosing the appropriate resources and utilizing these when opportunities arrive requires efficient time management and organizational skills. An average college student may be part of academic societies, major-related organizations, cultural and volunteering clubs, sports club…the list goes on. And as the student progresses in the degree track, the rigor of academics become more concentrated towards the major, requiring more time to focus and add internships over that! These skills help an accountant in times working with different financial statements, gathering information, and changing different departments.

By the proper application of time management skills, students should maintain a calendar with all the important dates like the due dates for assignments, fees, events, etc. They can further highlight the schedule using color codes: Pink for immediate, yellow for near future, and green for eventual tasks. This information can be arranged in the form of a table online, or in a separate diary of daily schedules. Noting down important dates really helps because it avoids the confusion when students sign up for two different things at the same time, unaware of their previous commitments.

Organizational skills come into play once everything is managed according to the respective timings, and now the student has to focus on being prepared for each task separately. The student can have different folders for different days of classes, organize what homework to work on and when according to the time-table, dedicate separate space for college work and job work on the single study desk, and make time to spend with friends and family.

Interpersonal Soft Skills

Employers today are looking for soft skills in students. Teamwork, networking, communication, people-understanding, and ethical conduct are just a few.

Teamwork teaches you how to deal with people of different characteristics and resolve conflicts. It is an underlying truth that most students end up in jobs through networking, rather than a formal application procedure. Maintaining communication at the beginning and end of an important discussion will leave time for productive work at the center. People-understanding helps expand the capabilities of the mind to think through different perspectives. It is not as important to agree with someone with a different perspective, as it is to accept his/her point of view as an opinion.

Learning these skills helps students develop their thought processes, expanding their opportunities. For accountants, these skills help when communicating with the boss or yours co-workers, and also to build rapport with the customers.

Hard & Technical Skills: The Wealth of Knowledge

Coming to the other side of the argument, strong hard and technical skills are equally as important as soft skills. Soft skills enhance hard skills, but hard skills decide how useful the person is to the given task.

In this high-tech era, with a plethora of information easily accessible online, employers expect their future employees to know much more than the future generations did. Specializations and experience in a particular field shows the employer that the student is accomplished with skills that the job requires. To be equipped with hard skills, the student must keep an eye open for any opportunity that provides experience within the major. This can be preparing taxes for an accounting student or researching an accounting topic.

Knowledge differentiates a student from the rest of the crowd by creating an image of dependability, responsibility and trust that the student knows what he/she is doing. Technical skills can be gained by gaining proficiency in Excel: the right hand of an accountant, and the software for tax preparation. Hard skills are what accountants are hired for: specific and professional financial information that adds credibility to the field and creates a need that anyone else cannot be trusted with.

Motivation, Responsibility and Leadership

With new opportunities and various life events, a student’s journey is very unpredictable. As the new term begins, a student’s motivation towards performing well may experience variations. It is therefore important for a student to maintain the same level or more of excitement and focus he/she had when he/she started the first semester of college to maintain consistency. Motivation shows how interested and committed the student is towards the work and sets the student apart. Consistency is important for an accountant because it makes the accountant dependable and focused while working for the client.

For most first-time students, college experience means living on your own for the first time. A student needs take care of his/her expenses, manage time without anyone commanding him/her what to do, maintain a good GPA, balance the social culture, and so on. But during this process, the student assumes responsibility. He/she learns to speak for himself/herself and think about the consequences before speaking. Responsibility is important because it forms the basis of professionalism. A responsible person can take care of his/her tasks on time and put in his/her full effort. It is important because accountants must assume the responsibility while preparing the financial statements or preparing taxes for clients.

Leadership demonstrates the assertiveness, proactiveness, and the risk-taking aspects of the student. It shows how career driven the student is, and how the student can perform in practical situations and still inspire others. For this, the student must set goals and work towards it with full determination. It is the willingness of the students to come out of their shells and contribute meaningfully to the goal or the task at hand. Some accountants assume leadership next to the CEO because they control the financial information!

Character Development

College not only provides academic knowledge, but also the mingling with people of different backgrounds which is a replica of the wider world consisting of different cultures. Social and interpersonal skills developed in college form the basis of a student’s perspective about humanity.

The experiences one goes through shape the nature of the student. College should be taken as a responsibility to develop the student’s good character because these characters further form the society that we call our community. Despite being a controlled environment, college is a miniature model of the world ahead. Accountants take character development seriously because an ethical accountant keeps all frauds away!

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A Change in Perspective

Student blogger: Caleb Braughton

There have been and continue to be a lot of discussions and commentary about the topic of people and their predisposition (or lack thereof) to being social. TED talks, behavioral studies, personality assessments, memes, books, documentaries, TV shows, news reports, movies – there’s a slew of different forms that the discussions and commentary come in.

Translating that topic into our world of business academics, there’s a very important item that is pushed heavily upon students within business schools: networking. I’m sure some may read or hear the word “networking” and think of it as nothing more than the fancy business version of the phrase “being social.” Others may read or hear “networking” and immediately tense up as they imagine themselves at a professional event where they know absolutely no one. To the latter group, “networking” is an ugly word that usually incites some level of anxiety. I know because I was (and still am, to some extent) part of the group that finds “networking” to have almost nothing but negative connotations attached to it. For my fellow members of that group, I’d like to propose to you something that has helped me greatly over the last year and a half: stop trying to “network” and start having a conversation.

 

Networking

Before we can move to having a conversation, we need to take a look at networking first. What are the goals of networking? What all does networking involve?

For starters, networking focuses on expanding one’s network in a mutually beneficial manner. With an expansive network, a professional has connections available to help or get help from easily. One of the most commonly noted upsides to effective networking is the increased likelihood of obtaining job positions. Companies are considerably more likely to hire someone who can be vouched for over a stranger they have very little information on. Networking can involve joining professional or student associations, attending conferences, following up with individuals one interacts with, going to socials, etc.

Networking is essentially “putting yourself out there” to meet new people and make connections. To some, this is a daunting task as it involves stepping out of one’s comfort zone. Alongside this, there’s constant external pressure for students to have a memorized elevator speech, keep their social media clean, have a robust LinkedIn account, constantly follow up on LinkedIn with professionals they meet, have their desired future industry and specific few companies to work for identified, attend as many professional events and conferences as possible and speak to as many people as possible at said events, join and be an active member in student and professional organizations, randomly reach out to professionals in their desired field regularly, attend networking workshops, etc.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of the above items. In fact, proper usage of networking activities is extremely vital to one’s career. However, focusing on all of these tasks and expectations is effective at removing the human element from networking so let’s take a step back and, as I proposed before, stop trying to network and start having a conversation.

 

A Conversation

It’s difficult to be comfortable with the expansive list of networking activities if one isn’t already comfortable with the baseline foundation of networking: talking to another human being. Networking isn’t a means to an end. It isn’t a torturous test. It isn’t some secret memo that everyone else got and you didn’t. Networking is a conversation. Don’t feel like a professional with years of experience isn’t going to want to talk to you just because you’re a student. We’re all human and, if we’re being honest, no one has a complete understanding of everything that’s going on.

The commonly repeated sentence “fake it ‘till you make it” exists for a reason. Stop placing the divide of inexperienced student versus professional between yourself and those you meet. If you boil down the situation to its most basic form, you are simply meeting and having a conversation with another person. Introduce yourself as you would to anyone else that you just met. Keep in mind the context you’re in (social, networking event, career fair, student chapter meeting, professional association meeting, presentation, etc.) as you speak with the person. Let the conversation grow organically instead of trying to force topics you’ve pre-prepared. Don’t think about whether you got your elevator speech word for word as you practiced, when it’s a good time to ask for their business card or if they would like yours, what’s a good time gap before you reach out to them on LinkedIn afterwards, or anything else of that sort. Just have a conversation and I promise you that networking will become a lot less difficult.

Whether networking is easy or hard for you, I hope that this perspective on it helps. I can personally attest to the fact that this change in mindset has helped me greatly in being more comfortable networking. With all that said, I’d like to challenge you to take a step back from yourself and understand that you’re just talking to another human being when you’re “networking.” All the other complementary stuff like LinkedIn, business cards, follow ups, elevator speeches, etc. can follow after you’ve had the chance to focus on the conversation.

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Staying Organized During Recruitment

Student Blogger: Rachel McKenna

When I went through the process of researching various companies of interest before I found the company I plan to build a career with, I discovered a few tips and tricks to organize my thoughts and the information I learned in the process.

So, if you’re wondering what steps you can take while on the hunt for a job, read on to find proven strategies you can implement to make the process more enjoyable while making the most of your time!

Keep a Journal…or an Excel Sheet

Writing down your feelings and notes before, during, and after your interactions with different company representatives can really put your thoughts into perspective. If you want more of a systematic way to reference your notes at each stage of the recruitment process, an alternative I have found helpful is Excel. Ultimately, the feelings you have about a company and potential future coworkers are subjective, so if you can quantify each phase of the job search process based on your experiences, you will have something concrete to refer to over time. Additionally, you can still make notes in Excel as well as note areas for follow-up.

When I have saved notes from an experience, I can clearly see what information has already been covered and think of questions I still want to ask. Also, since I enjoy learning more about the people I talk to from different companies, I can refer back to my notes when I know I will meet with someone I have talked to previously or someone who knows them. That way, we can pick up where we left off and keep the conversation going.

Make a Filing System

Create folders for each company you may be interested in working for. This allows you to become familiar with any gaps in research that you will need to fill in, and provides a method to sort the information that you will accumulate over the course of recruitment. By implementing a filing system, you will have an easier time finding your notes from a recent presentation and can quickly reference information you have gathered on the company and people who work there in one place.

Add Recruiters to Your Contacts

Get to know the recruiters you meet and put their contact information into your phone. That way when they call, you can recognize them and are prepared to talk to them. Keep in mind that if you are not in a good place to talk, you can call them back. Additionally, having their contact information readily accessible saves you time so you don’t have to search for their number when you have questions (because you will)!

Leading up to this, do make sure you have a professional phone voicemail greeting set up with your first name and details about what information the recipient should communicate to make the follow-up process more efficient.

Seek out Company Contacts

One student who went through the recruitment process before me noted the importance of staying connected to the opportunity to interact with potential coworkers. The thought he shared that, “you are not working with the recruiters, but the actual people” is simple enough to understand, but it may not automatically occur to you when you are busier than usual. The key here is being intentional about your interactions.

When recruiters visit campus, chances are they will bring other employees with them. This gives you the chance to ask questions direct from the source and see what life is like from their perspective. If you don’t have as much time to get to know employees at a company as you’d like to during their on-campus visits, another alternative is sending personalized LinkedIn connection requests to set up appointments to talk further. Those willing to help will respond, and from my experiences, they are quality people who will become an integral part of your professional network.

Take the Time to Send Thank You Notes

My last, if not most important, piece of advice is to express your appreciation for the time recruiters and other employees take to help you find the company that is right for you. You can do this through email, via a LinkedIn connection request, and later in the process with a handwritten note. Based on my interactions with several recruiters, I have found that their ultimate goal is to screen potential hires to see first if they are credible, and second, if they would do well with the company. At the end of the day, if a new hire is not happy at the company they chose, the consequence is lost resources. So, it makes sense that recruiters will go the extra mile to help students find a balance between being happy and feeling fulfilled. In turn, you as the student can do the same by following these tips!

Do you have additional tips for making the most of recruitment? Leave a comment below! 

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Benefitting from Benefits

Blogger: Matthew T. Brooks

As a non-traditional student completing my Master’s Degree in Accounting, I have had the experience of working at several different types of jobs, most recently a tax internship at a public accounting firm.  Throughout my different jobs and in talking with both more experienced accountants and recruiters, benefits are a key aspect of accounting jobs that is often overlooked or ignored by job hunters.

 

For those beginning their careers, this is often either from lack of knowledge about the benefits, or from a feeling of invincibility that college students often have, thinking that they will never have medical issues and that retirement will never happen.  I believe that it is extremely important that everyone be knowledgeable and aware of different benefits in order to make the best choices for themselves.

When I say benefits here, I don’t mean free snacks during busy season or a higher starting salary.  I mean 401k, insurance, PTO and various other special programs.  I’ve broken down each of these categories to give a brief explanation for those who may not be as knowledgeable or for those who would like to learn a little bit more.

401k: This is your retirement plan.  Very few jobs offer a pension plan anymore, so your 401k is where it’s at. Your company deducts money from your paycheck and puts it into your 401k account based on how you choose to set it up.

This money can be taken either before being taxed (pre-tax) or after being taxed (Roth).  Once the money has been deposited into your 401k account, you choose how to invest the money.  If you choose the pre-tax option, the money grows tax-free, but when you withdraw it you will pay tax on the full amount.  If you choose the Roth option, you pay taxes on it before it is deposited, but it will grow tax-free, and you will be able to withdraw it tax-free.

Where the 401k really shines, however, is when your employer will match your contributions.  Although the percentage will vary by employer, a common matching amount is 3 percent.  This means that if 3 percent of your paycheck is deducted to be put into your 401k, your employer will deposit that same amount into your 401k!  It’s essentially free money.  If your employer offers any kind of match, I highly recommend contributing at a minimum the amount required to get the full match.

Insurance:  For many of us, the only type of insurance we think about right now is auto insurance.  However, when you start working, you will have many additional insurance options available for purchase. Here I will discuss the three most common.

The first is health insurance.  With some companies you will only have one choice for health insurance, while other companies may offer three or more different health insurance options.  When comparing plans, make sure you run the numbers based on your expected usage – sometimes the cheapest is not the best deal, and sometimes the most expensive is not the best coverage.

The second type of insurance is life.  The first thing to check with life insurance is whether or not your company already has a free policy in place for you.  If not, or if you want a higher coverage, you may want to consult with a specialist to determine what amount you should sign up for.

The third type of common insurance is dental insurance.  Dental insurance is generally pretty straightforward, although some companies will offer an enhanced version.  If you have had dental issues in the past, you may want to consider this option if it is available.

PTO or Paid Time Off:  Rather than vacation days and sick days, most companies simply refer to all days off as PTO.  These are days you get paid for but do not work, excluding holidays.  While some companies will give you a certain amount of PTO days, many accounting firms have begun a policy of unlimited PTO.  This does not mean you can take the whole year off, but rather means that you are not limited to a certain number of days off.

Two important things to remember with PTO days are first, make sure you get it approved by a supervisor so that everyone knows you will be gone and second, TAKE YOUR PTO.  Accounting, and especially public accounting, is a very deadline-driven, time-intensive career field.  If you just worked four, 70-hour weeks leading up to April 15, take a week off and recuperate.  It is very easy to burn yourself out if you don’t take your PTO days.

Other benefits:  These include such things as tuition reimbursement/student loan forgiveness (pay for my schooling? Thanks!), Health Savings Account employer contributions (free money for medical costs), maternity/paternity leave (trust me, you need the time off), parking reimbursement (if you work in downtown Dallas, this adds up), profit sharing (if your company makes money, you get a bonus) and CPA bonus (varies by firm, generally only if you pass the exam within the first couple years of starting work).  Although not all accounting jobs will offer all of these and some may not offer any of them, it is important that you make yourself aware of what they offer so you don’t miss out.

This summary should give you a head start on understanding and being aware of what benefits are out there.  When choosing or starting a new job, benefits are an important part of the process.

A great 401k match can offset a lower salary, and expensive health insurance can make a higher salary less appealing.  Benefits should not be the only thing you consider when choosing a job, but they should be a consideration.  In addition, make sure you are aware of all of the benefits your company offers once you do start working.  You never know what you might be leaving on the table if you don’t do your research!

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High School Educators: Register Today for the APBP Advanced Accounting Training in Lake Charles, LA

Apply now to attend the upcoming training through AICPA’s Accounting Program for Building the Profession (APBP) – formerly the Accounting Pilot and Bridge Project. This year,  AICPA, Texas Society of CPAs and the Society of Louisiana CPAs are jointly hosting the unique three-day program in Lake Charles, LA on July 24-26.

The APBP training is designed to provide high school educators with advanced accounting curriculum to challenge, engage and inspire your accounting students. Why? Recent research conducted by AICPA found the first accounting course high school students take greatly impacts their decision to pursue accounting as a major and career choice. The curriculum you receive in this training will become your go-to for increased engagement in the study of accounting, while we become your go-to resource for continued support after the training.

High school teachers who complete the three-day training will receive:

  • FREE registration and a $200 stipend to offset travel expenses
  • Daily lesson plans and assignments
  • Pre-written exams with answer keys
  • A textbook, including teacher’s notes and PowerPoint presentations
  • Exclusive access to AICPA’s Start Here, Go Places. online teaching resources, refresher videos and webcasts
  • Continuous support post-training

Sound like something you might be interested in? Check out the flyer below for more information and register today!

Feel free to contact me with any questions. We hope to see you there!

APBP Flyer: AICPA-APBP-Flyer-TX-LA

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VITA: An addition to my resume or more than that?

Blogger: V. Aishwarya Singh

The tax season is here! Having been IRS certified just a couple of months ago, preparing taxes for real people in the real world at a real time seems further than reality to me. As a freshman, volunteering for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) is my biggest accomplishment in the field of my major—accounting.

Initial thoughts

When I first signed up for VITA, I had little idea how exciting preparing taxes was going to be. I first felt overwhelmed at the thought of preparing taxes for people who will rely on me to get their tax refunds and payments. But then the experiences shared by previous VITA preparers relieved me and prepared me for the most exciting season of the year.

The 12-hour training to volunteer initially appeared like two unusually long days giving me what I assumed would be more information than I could retain. However, I was proven completely wrong. The VITA training went so fast, and what appeared two long days became a matter of a few hours explaining to me the essential steps of preparing taxes and the interesting provision of different case scenarios of applying the training knowledge. The VITA coordinators were very helpful. They helped me figure out the right amounts and guided me though the process.

Beginning experience

Signing up for the VITA sites was also a good experience. The spots filled us so quickly and the unfamiliarity of working in a place previously unknown to me was what I was thinking. But all my thoughts faded into happiness as I reached the VITA site for my first shift. It was wonderful to be a part of the VITA team. The atmosphere was a juxtaposition of professional, yet homely. The site manager, quality reviewers and other fellow volunteers created a warm environment. I was immediately given my work desk while they had someone assist me for my first time preparing taxes.

By the time I had my second shift, I was well acquainted with the site. I prepared taxes for six to seven clients that day and felt satisfied with myself. The joy that some of the clients had when then found out they were getting a refund was unparalleled to anything. They looked hopefully as I prepared taxes, some even nervous with the whole process. When the taxes were prepared and reviewed, they would smile and show their appreciation. This not only boosted my confidence in preparing taxes, but also provided me with an inspiration to utilize my accounting knowledge for the benefit of the community.

My Learning

My real-world experience taught me what I couldn’t have learned in a classroom setting. The responsibility of preparing taxes for real citizens filing with the IRS, the fulfillment of my duties while preparing taxes, the proper ethical code of conduct, behavior towards clients, time management, and commitment towards my shifts.

I will always cherish my experience with VITA. It is my first professional experience and my first accounting accomplishment. It gave me a new perspective about the world of taxation. VITA is one of the programs that I would recommend to every accounting major. I hope to prepare more taxes this season and help more families whose income is under $58,000.

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